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Edit: Jeff’s answer - replace the cable housing - fixed the problem. I made sure the highest and lowest alignments were correct, that the cogs lined up with the gears, and then replaced all cable housing for the rear gears. It’s now shifting as expected.

I have the following rear components:

Shimano ST-4500 shifter, Tiagra
Shimano RD-M591 rear derailleur

They’re both supposed to be 9 speed. The rear derailleur is long cage. For completeness, I have a 3x front chainring set and that works mostly Ok.

The problem is when I shift from one direction to another, it takes two clicks to make the change. If I’m shifting in the same direction, one click works after that. I’m kinda-sorta used to it, but it’s annoying when I want to change just one gear in the other direction. Sometimes, after shifting twice to change directions, it’ll shift spuriously one more in that direction and then I have to reverse it to get it where I want it. It’s like one of the components is meant for 10 speeds and the other is for 9, but the manuals say they’re both 9.

Any suggestions? I’ve seen elsewhere that a Shimano RD-M592 would be compatible with the ST-4500, but I’m not sure why the M591 wouldn’t be as well.

Oh, cables are new; components have been cleaned and seem to work, otherwise. The cable housing from the shifter is somewhat old, and could probably be replaced, but the cable seems to slide through it well enough.

Thanks!

  • If the manual says they are 9-speed, it is very much likely so. Have you tried adding oil to the shifter housing? If oiling helps, then it means the housing is more rusty than you think, and it is time to replace it. Otherwise, check the derailleur hanger to not be bent; even a slight misalignment may cause the effects you observe. – Grigory Rechistov Oct 2 at 7:18
  • It would be helpful if you specify the full drivetrain, i.e. cassette and chainset rings. – thelawnet Oct 2 at 7:28
  • Also I believe Shimano MTB derailleurs are 'long cage ' and 'super long cage' so it would eliminate ambiguity to use the model name 'SGS' or 'GS' – thelawnet Oct 2 at 7:30
  • The bike is a 2011 model and has been my primary bike for crappy weather riding for many of those years. The cable housing was original and, evidently, needed to be replaced. That and a new cable and she’s working like a champ. Thanks to all! – Aaron M Oct 3 at 1:30
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There is no compatibility problem.

If the direction you have to shift twice in is downshifting (pulling cable, going to bigger cogs), that can indicate not enough cable tension. If it's upshifting, it can indicate friction in the cable/housing.

It sounds a lot like one or both (could be both) of the above are true. Misalignment in the derailleur hanger can also add to the finickiness of the adjustment, i.e. making it harder to get the chain to shift right and then stay in place without the ghost shifting. Excess pulley and pivot slop in the RD can also contribute to sluggish shifting. So can a B-tension screw that's too far out.

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The most common cause of faulty shifting is excess cable friction. Whether it be from dirt, a worn ferrule with a sharp edge that nips at the inner cable or even a cable that makes too sharp a turn along it's route...anything that adds resistance to the inner cable movement can cause deterioration in shift performance. One study I've read suggests that the total number of cable direction changes (measured in degrees, as you might a circle or angle) is directly correlated to friction within the system. Thus, even though you may route a derailleur cable with nice, flowing sweeps, it's more relevant to pay attention to the number and tightness of the curves.

At any rate, Shimano 7,8 & 9 speed mountain and road plus road 10 speed all share a common derailleur "actuation ratio." Essentially this means that derailleur's from any of these "speed" systems will move the same distance for any given amount of cable pulled. Thus, specific to your question, despite mixing a 9 speed road STI shifter with a mountain 9 speed derailleur, the shifting should work, no problem. Since compatability isn't the issue, we look elsewhere for the hiccup in the system.

In addition to excess friction, another area to examine is the alignment of the derailleur. The derailleur cage should be parallel to the cassette cogs. From a position behind the bike, observe the rear drivetrain. The derailleur cage should be straight up and down and the upper jockey wheel should be directly underneath the cog of the gear it is running the chain on (one exception is at the small, outside cog, where the proper setting would have the teeth of the jockey wheel running directly under the outside plane of the small cog). Common causes of misalignment of the derailleur cage is a bent derailleur hangar, a cross threaded derailleur fixing bolt, a loose or otherwise messed up hangar fixing bolt that causes the hangar to be misaligned. While we're making all these observations from the back of the bike, the very first thing to check is that the rear wheel is fully engaged and centered in the dropouts.

The RD-M592 is a shadow type derailleur and if it is connected to the bike conventionally, there is a little tab on the derailleur's bracket axle unit (the piece of the derailleur that has the fixing bolt that attaches to the bikes hangar) which must rest on the B-tab of the hangar. Subtle issues with shifting result when there is a gap here.

Lotsa things to check. I'd advise doing yourself a favor and change that outer housing. It's inexpensive peace of mind.

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  • This is especially true as the OP mentions needing to shift twice and then getting an unexpected shift. Perhaps there's been an attempt to tweak the gears while the friction is too high - I've done that myself. High friction can also be caused by a failing inner - when strands break they act like tiny ratchets, as well as taking up more room in the housing. +1 – Chris H Oct 2 at 8:04
  • OP may want to peek inside that STI to look for cable fray. – Jeff Oct 2 at 8:37
  • exactly. I'm waiting for parts to recable my Sora rear shifter. Mine was showing similar symptoms, then the friction remained after replacing an inner cable that snapped without warning, I think because of damage to the lining caused by the frayed cable. Luckily I've got a triple at the front because I had to do 200km (mercifully quite flat) in the same sprocket. – Chris H Oct 2 at 8:41
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    What about simple mis-positioning? I.e. the cable length, as adjusted with the handle screw and the screw at the dereailleur, is about half a gear off. That explains both the double shift needed in one direction and the spontaneous shift. I found it surprising how far off the adjustment can be, and the shifting still kinda-works the way the OP describes (in particular, once shifted, you can ride without a lot of noise). – Peter - Reinstate Monica Oct 2 at 14:00
  • The cable housing seems to be just what the dr ordered. +1. – Aaron M Oct 3 at 1:24

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